Anyone that knows me knows that a holly jolly holiday funk is imminent beginning the day after Thanksgiving ending no sooner than January 2nd. One time my holiday funk lasted for eight months…nearly just in time for a new holiday season! Fa la la la f-off! I try to sit down and have conversations with my brain, trying to talk some sense into the darn thing, explaining that this is the season of joy, blah, blah, blah but he won’t have it. I think he may even hate the word joy! If you have a brain like mine, hopefully this article I found will give you some understanding of why we may go mental.
The Holiday seasons often bring about extraordinary stress for everyone. For those of us with ADHD these stresses can be more magnified than for many of our friends, relatives and acquaintances due to the nature of ADHD. I would like to possess the answer for all of you on why this is the case but unfortunately I do not. I hope by this letter I can help in explaining potential areas where perhaps we can avoid some of the traps the season seems to set us up for and better skills in coping.
In adulthood some of the more common traits of ADHD are related to interactions with our family, friends and intimate relationships. These can often manifest themselves in zoning out, blowing out or copping out.
Zoning out refers to difficulty in listening, becoming distracted while doing tasks; not really noticing what is going on with those persons we are interacting with at the time. This is often further complicated by chronic disorganization and getting overwhelmed.
Blowing out refers to impulsive emotional outburst in word and deed especially with those that we love and care about the most. These occur even over minor life events. In other words “we always hurt the ones we love the most”.
Copping out refers to difficulty in completing projects, sticking to plans, remembering things, fulfilling commitments, getting to places on time, attending to details and general planning and organizing work and family life.
If you think of these three areas in terms of the Holidays you can no doubt see the pitfalls of shopping, office parties, and visiting relatives.
Shopping- Some people love it, others -many with ADHD do not. I am one that does not enjoy shopping. I can go into some stores that have unique items and things seem to go “ok” but go into at Wal-Mart, Target or some other large store that carries similar items that can be found everywhere and my SPI (I made this up–Shopping Pain Index) can kick in almost immediately. I become anxious and need to get out of the store as soon as possible. My SPI is totally irregular and can never be predicted hour to hour or day to day. Maybe some of you can relate to this.
Office parties are other areas where problems can occur. Sometimes they are fun and enjoyable and other times they feel stressful and artificial because you often feel obligated to attend and spend even more time with many of the co-workers you probably don’t enjoy working with in the first place. Add alcohol and less structure and the potential for verbal conflicts often increase. Many of us go and stay for a short time and then leave. If you work in a larger company sometimes you can make a quicker exit without being noticed. This is not to say we should not strive to be social but rather that if we are stressed it is everyone’s best interest that we not stay.
Visiting relatives, which we sometimes affectionately refer to as vacations, but in actuality often have no resemblance to real vacations, we can often find ourselves in some of the most stress filled situations. Our brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles all seem to take on our old roles from younger years and we find ourselves in some of the old battlegrounds we thought we had outgrown. If we were the problematic ADHD child we may find ourselves right back in that role.
The Holidays often also lack routine and structure, extensive travel and poor eating and sleeping patterns. The stress of trying to be polite and nice to everyone can be problematic. Some people who take medication for ADHD are often tempted to skip doses or forget to take their medications during the Holidays.
The excitement of the Holidays can adversely affect us in many ways also; we should take time for a break from the crowd, relax and calm down. If we are feeling stressed out there is nothing wrong with admitting that to our spouse or family if we feel comfortable in doing so and taking some personal time.
Try and recall to mind some of our more pleasant memories of past Holiday seasons and remember what made them special and try and concentrate on what we could do to make this season more like that special one.
Above all try not to take things too seriously, keep a sense of humor and enjoy the Holidays no matter where, with whom, or under what circumstances you find yourself in.
By Patrick J. Hurley